Smith and Van Zant weren't finished with Hampton. They wanted to follow the money.
On April Fool's Day 2013, Van Zant asked the state auditor general to step in and go over the city's books. Lots of money was coming in, he observed, and Hampton had plenty of police officers and shiny new cars, but there was no sign that other services had improved.
Hodges did not return CNN's calls requesting comment. He has retired from his $400-a-week job as chief, leaving Hampton without a police force.
The sheriff's department has been patrolling the city for more than a year. Hodges has said he plans to run against Smith in the next election.
He told a local newspaper, The Gainesville Sun, that he considers the audit a one-sided political "witch hunt," even though he acknowledged he didn't read it.
Culture of entitlement
City Hall is locked up tight. Trucks parked out back have been stripped of parts and left to rust. The mail is piling up. There's no money coming in, so the last three employees have walked off the job.
It's as if Hampton has already given up.
Tough times can leave people feeling both deprived and, oddly, entitled. Listen closely, and you can hear that culture of entitlement when some folks from Hampton speak. Moore, the jailed mayor, talks about his disability checks as his "salary."
Smith, the sheriff, believes that folks at City Hall came to treat their government perks in much the same way. He said residents complained to him that police officers and other employees drove city cars home without signing them out. They took them to run personal errands at Walmart. When they filled them up at the BP station, they brought lawnmowers and gas cans from home too and put it all on the city charge card.
The audit was harshest on the former city clerk, Jane Hall. It did not accuse her of any crimes but called into question her handling of some of the city's business.
She acknowledged to CNN that she isn't the most organized person and had no formal training in bookkeeping or accounting. But the books always passed muster with the outside accountants the city hired, she said.
Hall was camera-shy when CNN visited Hampton but later defended herself at length during several phone conversations and email exchanges. She provided spreadsheets and other documentation to support her points. She believes that the case against Hampton has been blown out of proportion.
The money that came in from the tickets went back into the police department, she said. And the police still outspent their budget almost every year.
Hall denies that she was overpaid by $9,000 and says the city's outside auditing company backs her up. The $27,000 on the city's credit card was spent on Christmas parties, flowers, gifts, a fall festival and other events, she said.
The auditors questioned whether parties were an appropriate use of public funds. But she pointed out that the audit never suggested that the card was used for personal expenses.
And she said she provided receipts for the $132,000 charged at the BP. It all went to gas for 10 city vehicles, including police cars, over a three-year span.
The audit also questioned several city checks issued to Hall's family members that were never cashed. Later, a single check in the aggregate amount was made out to Hall herself. She said that the uncashed checks were "payroll" and that if she employed family, it was because nobody else wanted the work. She said she spent hours working with the auditors after she stepped down but was never paid for her time.
Her husband, Charles Norris Hall, served on the City Council for years but didn't take his $125 monthly paycheck when the city was struggling financially, she said. (He resigned from his council seat last week.) It never was the case of a small-town big shot putting his wife on the City Hall payroll. Jane Hall had been a council member as well. She was first elected when she was just 22 years old.
"I think that some of the audit findings have either been misconstrued or deliberately skewed to show me in an unfavorable light," she said. "I do think the move to dissolve Hampton is completely unfair and don't understand who will gain by it."